Whether it’s the Olympics, another major sporting competition, a parade, a concert, or a festival like Carnival, traveling during a major event poses a unique set of challenges.
It’s more than likely you’ll be faced with massive crowds, heightened security, as well as transport closures & diversions. Add to that the fact that you’re in a foreign city or country, and it’s a recipe for chaos.
Nevertheless, there are a few ways you can arm yourself to deal with these challenges. Here are my tips for making sure you have the most hassle-free experience while attending your event.
Arriving at your destination
1. Travel carry-on only. You’ll save a ton of time at the baggage carousel if you don’t check-in any luggage – remember there’ll be a lot more people arriving than usual. There’s also a higher risk your bag will go missing given the huge influx of passengers.
2. Pack lightly. If you can manage your own luggage, you’ll be able to make use of public transport to get from the airport to your hotel. Cabs might be hard to get a hold of and even if you do find one, they’ll often have raised their rates for the period of the event.
3. Arrive a few days before the event and leave a few days after. This way, you won’t be part of the hordes all arriving and departing at once. You’ll also have some time to get settled, ward off the jetlag and do a bit of sightseeing before the chaos starts.
4. Leave early. Be aware that there could be huge delays in public transit due to crowds or breakdowns, so allow plenty of time to get to where you’re going.
5. Purchase a daily/weekly transport pass. It’ll save you having to line up to buy tickets every single time you ride the subway.
6. Set up text or email alerts. This way you can be notified if there are delays, closures or other transportation issues.
7. Know alternative transport routes. Officials may be directing crowds in the direction of the trains or buses, but see if there are monorails, trams, ferries etc that you could take instead. It may even be faster to walk to another transport stop and hop on there.
8. Consider renting a bike. It’ll be much easier to dodge the traffic on the roads and it’ll save you waiting for the next [crowded] bus or train.
9. Don’t try to drive! Renting a car might seem like a nice way to avoid the masses, but many roads will be blocked off during an event so traffic (not to mention parking!) is almost always horrific.
What to carry with you
10. Food & drink. Carry a refillable bottle of water (beware that you may need to keep it empty until after you go through security checkpoints) and some easy-to-eat snacks, such as fruit, nuts or granola bars. Food and drink are generally overpriced at events and may be hard to access (you’ll have to fight your way through the crowds to get to them).
11. Curate the items in your purse or bag. Keep the contents of your daypack to a minimum and consider grouping the items inside into clear zip-lock bags. You may have to pass through numerous security checkpoints and this will speed things up (as well as prevent small items from falling out). Also remember to check if there are any prohibited items at the event (these are generally things like glass bottles, alcohol and potential weapons such as knives) to save yourself from having belongings confiscated.
12. Prepare for the weather. Pack a light jacket or fleece, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. Even if your event is indoors, you might get stuck in a long queue outside. If the event is outdoors, you might want to carry a rain mac or poncho (umbrellas are a pain to hold for long periods and block other people’s view) as well as a plastic bag or sheet to sit on in case the ground or your chair is wet.
13. Wear comfortable shoes. You likely be walking and standing around waiting a lot so make sure you have supportive shoes on. Closed-toe shoes are good if there are crowds since lots of toes get inadvertently trampled in the mass of people.
14. Bring binoculars. These are obviously optional depending on the event you’re attending, but they can be nice if you’re seated far away from the action.
15. Be careful of what you wear. Tensions can really boil over during sporting matches and other major events – so if you’re wearing a team jersey supporting the “wrong” team, you could find yourself inadvertently pulled into a fight. That’s not to say you shouldn’t get dressed up in the spirit of things – but it’s something to be conscious of.
Sightseeing with ease
16. Buy passes for museums or attractions. Many of these will let you skip the long lines and go straight inside. At the very least, you won’t have to line up to purchase tickets at every single attraction and will save a bit of money by getting the pass.
17. Check opening hours carefully. Many attractions may close down or have limited hours during the event or festivity going on in the city. Be sure to get the latest visitor information from museum or attraction websites to avoid disappointment.
18. Don’t try to do too much in one day. Getting around is going to be a lot slower and stressful than usual, so keep the number of planned activities and events to a minimum. It’s helpful if you can do a bit of research in advance and “group” activities and attractions that are close to each other so there’s less time spent on transport and more time spent sightseeing.
What do you think? Have you traveled during a major festival or event? What advice do you have for readers?